At Least 20 Troops Killed in Paletwa Clashes, AA Says

By Moe Myint 27 May 2019

YANGON – Nearly two dozen Army soldiers, including some high-ranking officers, were killed in a battle with the Arakan Army (AA) in a remote area of Chin State’s Paletwa Township on Sunday, according to an AA press release.

The AA announced it had ambushed a military column that was traveling in four boats on the Kaladan River in upper Paletwa’s Maung Hna Ma village on Sunday morning. It claimed two of the boats were completely destroyed by gunfire and estimated at least 20 troops were killed during the fighting.

The Army troops belong to Mon State-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 218, which is now under the command of the Light Infantry Division (LID) No. 11 in northern Rakhine and neighboring Chin State. The AA battle update claimed more than 20 bodies were floating downstream in the Kalandan River and one AA rebel was also killed in the clash.

Maung Hna Ma is situated about 15 miles north of Paletwa. As there are no road links between the urban and rural areas, locals mostly rely on boats for their daily activities. A Chin villager from Mee Wa village told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity that a number of soldiers died when their boat sank in the middle of the river during the clash with the AA on Sunday.

He elaborated that a boat operator from Maung Hna Ma village, U Yan Doe, was shot in the leg while he was transporting military troops. The man was transported to Paletwa General Hospital for medical treatment on Monday morning.

As fighting broke out near the village, some villagers fled to a safer location in the region. It remains unclear how many Maung Hna Ma villagers abandoned their homes on Monday. A Mee Wa villager said the Kaladan River is now under the control of the AA, and Chin villagers avoid traveling on it except in emergencies.

AA deputy chief Brigadier General Nyo Tun Aung said that at least one boat carrying 10-15 soldiers was sunk by gunfire, while a second was destroyed but able to reach the river bank.

“We haven’t received a complete report yet. What I can say for sure is two or three high-ranking officers were killed,” he said.

The AA said fighting lasted all day on Sunday, including another clash with a Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 214 unit brought in to reinforce troops along the river. In the second engagement, AA snipers and commandos also killed about 20 Army troops, it said.

Office of the Commander-in-Chief spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun acknowledged that some troops were shot dead in the battle but declined to provide casualty figures over the phone on Monday.

Last week, military Captain Chan Tha Win, 23, of Defense Services Academy (DSA) intake No. 58 was shot dead by AA rebels in Tha Pyu Chaung village in Paletwa Township. A childhood friend of Capt. Chan Tha Win, Ko Soe Min, told The Irrawaddy that he paid a visit to bereaved family members to offer his condolences.

When The Irrawaddy’s Naypyitaw correspondent asked Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun about the death of Capt. Chan Tha Win on Thursday, he said, “We don’t know his name; we have to check the engagement record.”

He said there was no fighting between the AA and government troops on Monday, but said a battle did break out on May 17 and that the military had three bodies of AA rebels.